Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

What Do Dreams Have To Do With “Real” Life? Part II July 22, 2014

IndividuationandArchetypeLast time I shared a dream from over 20 years ago titled “Two Snakes in the Tree of Life.” So what did that dream have to do with “real” life?  Actually, dreams ARE real life.  They happen to everyone, even some animals.  They are facts.  We do not make them up.  They come from a place beyond Ego’s control: the unconscious.  Our unawareness of the unconscious does not negate its reality;  each dream proves its existence. When we trust it and explore its nightly dramas, ordinary life is transformed into the greatest adventure of all: living our own myth.

This is my all-time favorite dream and I’m still processing its message. It arrived shortly after I finished my first book about the inner life, The Bridge to Wholeness.  I had quit college teaching to follow my passion for writing, birthed my precious child, nurtured it through months of revisions, and was looking for a publisher. At a time when I was particularly vulnerable, this dream affirmed my choices and bolstered my courage to continue on my new path.

It is a mythic allegory about the psycho-spiritual initiation of my immature Ego (the little green snake) which had unconsciously identified with my culture’s masculine/Animus values.  It said that my destiny was to take the individuation (tree) journey through a dark and unknown way to integrate my Soul (brown female snake) into consciousness.

The Bridge to WholenessThe first stage of initiation was a slow awakening to Spirit through a lengthy immersion in the spiritual realm (hole).  This corresponded with the first half of my life when I escaped internal conflicts by immersing myself in church, the Bible, and masculine-oriented religious teachings.

The second stage began when the little green snake left the safe womb of conformity and ventured out on its own.  This was the right choice (right) for me, even though it opened me to the dangerous influence of the unconscious (left). The outer world equivalent to this plot development is that at age 37 I finally acknowledged my unhappiness and lack of fulfillment, overcame my inertia, and returned to college for my doctorate.

Act III featured an encounter with my earthy feminine Anima/Soul (brown female snake) who lived in the opposite, unconscious side of my psyche. Suddenly, her differing needs demanded equal time with Spirit.

In waking life I had come face to face with a moral dilemma, both sides of which were equally compelling, yet intolerable.  Fearful of making a terrible mistake that could have disastrous consequences, I tolerated the tension of their slow simmering in a Dark Night of the Soul for nine long years. Listening to the dialogues between Reason and Emotion, Conscious and Unconscious, Animus and Anima, Spirit and Soul, Ego and Self without giving in to my Ego’s desperate wish to escape was my salvation, for in the process, the alchemical vessel of my psyche was strengthened and empowered.

dreamtheatres2Fascinated by the strange image of the female snake biting down on the head of the little green snake, I looked for associations in Barbara Walker’s The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets. Walker says that the serpent was originally identified with the Great Goddess and many ancient religions told stories about a male snake deity who was the Goddess’s consort.  Walker writes:

[This male snake]…gave himself up to be devoured by the Goddess.  The image of the male snake deity enclosed or devoured by the female gave rise to a superstitious notion about the sex life of snakes, reported by Pliny and solemnly believed in Europe even up to the 20th century:  that the male snake fertilizes the female snake by putting his head in her mouth and letting her eat him [italics mine] p. 904.

Bingo! This mythic image which I had never encountered before is an archetypal symbol of fertility, transformation and renewal! It appeared in my dream as a natural consequence of years of inner work and mirrored a life-changing transformation in my personality. This is why the last scene of the dream pointed not to death, but to new life. An apparent catastrophe was transformed into something sacred (rainbow) by the snakes’ bizarre embrace. The result was a more maturely individuated Ego and Animus (cowboy) and a deeply meaningful spirituality.

So my answer to,”What do dreams have to do with ‘real’ life?” is, “Everything that truly matters and is deeply real.”  They show us who we are: our greatest fears and deepest desires, our wounds and wishes, weaknesses and strengths.They tell us where we are and how to get where we want to go. They help us forgive our flaws and learn compassion for ourselves and others. They encourage our individuality and reward our healthy choices. They satisfy our soul’s yearning to be known and loved.

I still struggle daily to understand and accept myself, but thanks to my dreams and the writing through which I pour out my vital essence, I’m still evolving.  And beneath my ubiquitous self-doubt rests a solid foundation—laid by 25 years of recording and working on #4,552 dreams to date—of peaceful knowing.  My dreams tell me:  You are making a contribution only you can make. This is enough for me.

Your destiny is the result of the collaboration between the conscious and the unconscious. Carl Jung, Letters Volume I, p. 283.

Photos:  Ego and Archetype by Edward Edinger is one of my favorite books by a Jungian analyst. It’s a must for the library of any serious seeker. To learn more about Jungian psychology from a layperson’s point of view check out any of my books.  Ebook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and Diesel Ebooks.  Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.

 

Caryatids and Queens April 8, 2014

Femininity is universally associated with beauty, softness, tenderness, receptivity, relationship, and caring. While some equate these qualities with weakness, Spirit Warriors know they make us stronger than we ever imagined possible. Of the many symbols suggesting this kind of strength, none speaks as strongly to me as the caryatid.

Caryatids are gigantic columns or pillars in the form of beautiful, fully draped females. A very old architectural device, they were originally used to support immense entablatures in sacred public buildings. In ancient times it was said that seven priestesses founded major oracle shrines. These priestesses had different names in various parts of the world. In the Middle East they were known as the Seven Pillars of Wisdom, hence their common usage as columns holding up temple roofs. These same pillars are referred to in Proverbs 9:1: “Wisdom [Sophia] hath builded her house, she hath hewn out her seven pillars.” On the Acropolis at Athens, caryatids are associated with the strong and independent goddess, Artemis Caryatis, from whom they get their name.

My first glimpse of caryatids at the British Museum filled me with awe and wonder. In them I saw feminine beauty, gentleness, independence, spirituality and mystery blended with majestic, connected, immovable strength. I was looking at a manifestation of, and metaphor for, the Queen archetype. This is a feminine aspect of power and strength with which every psyche is furnished regardless of gender.

A defining characteristic of the caryatid’s strength is her queenly way of serving society. She is strong enough to support huge social structures involving a variety of people, skill levels and activities, but never takes on more than she can handle, never gets crushed under the weight of her responsibilities.

Nor does she claim godlike perfection and omnipotence for herself: no savior complex for her! She simply receives what she is strong enough to receive; contains what she is large enough to contain; gives what is hers to give. Her strength is not based on compulsions to prove anything or pretend to be something she is not, but on a clear understanding of the nature of her gifts, dimensions of her interior space, and limits of her authority.

Like caryatids, mature Queens have a sense of social responsibility. They are pillars of society who are always there to listen and understand; share in pain or joy; defend the innocent, weak, vulnerable and disenfranchised; and advance culture. They have a quiet, grounded strength that does not belittle, gossip, or betray confidences. They accept without rejecting differing opinions and protect without exploiting weakness. They do not relinquish softness; rather theirs is the softness of the lioness, not the lamb. Although receptive, they are never doormats. They nurture but never smother. Theirs is the warm and life-giving receptivity of the womb, not the cold hardness of the tomb.

Caryatids and Queens stand tall and firm with eyes wide open. With steadfast devotion and resolve they support institutions and endeavors which are in everyone’s best interest. We emulate their strength when we subordinate our ego’s will to the greater good and work for the betterment of all without betraying our personal standpoints. May we all, female and male alike, manifest more of this wise use of feminine strength.

Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc. Ebook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and Diesel Ebooks 

 

 

The Soul’s Twins April 3, 2014

Have you ever felt like more than one person? I’m not talking about a psychotic split, but about how we can feel and behave differently in different situations or seasons. How sometimes we want to be with people and sometimes need to be alone. How we can be passionate about something today and indifferent tomorrow. How we occasionally feel separated from our true selves. If you’ve ever wondered about things like this, you, too, have pondered Life’s Big Question: “Who the heck am I anyway?”

I used to ask myself this during long summers at our vacation home in the Smoky Mountains. There I can spend hours on the porch contemplating hummingbird hostilities, listening to birds define their territories, scanning the sky for soaring hawks and gray clouds, conversing with the gurgling creek, and absorbing the rhythms of the day. I care for animals, feed fish, hike, garden. If we’re having a drought I spend hours driving around the property in my green John Deere Gator with the big water tank labeled WEEKEND WARRIOR lovingly spraying water on every growing thing in sight. I thrive on being alone. I love going nowhere, listening, feeling, sweating, getting dirty. I can’t get enough of the solitude or outdoors.

Do I want to be outdoors in Florida? Are you kidding me? It’s HOT out there! And why would I want to water plants? If they don’t get enough moisture from the dripping humidity and afternoon thunderstorms they’re on their own! In Florida I rarely think about fish or watch clouds or tend to plants. I don’t care if it rains. I want to be with my family, socialize with friends, write.

So who am I? In Florida I’m a wife, mother, grandmother, writer, supporter of the arts, social person. In North Carolina I’m a loner, gardener, observer of nature, enjoyer of solitude. In Florida I side with Apollo, god of the sun, civilization, the cerebral life and culture; in North Carolina I honor Artemis, goddess of the moon, wilderness, the instinctual life and nature.

Did you know these two Greek deities were twins? Which is the real me? The answer, of course, is both. Carl Jung said, “Within each one of us there is another whom we do not know. S/He speaks to us in dreams…” This Another is our unconscious, an inner soup of unknown characters, complexes, untapped interests and disowned emotions. At an early age our ego adapted to the life into which we were born by incorporating the tastiest of these tidbits into our conscious personality and neglecting the rest. We may not normally be aware of the rejected ones, but they are still part of us. Since most are not crucial to our soul’s purpose they don’t mind being ignored. But there are always a critical few we have wrongly disowned. Until we befriend them they show up in our dreams and erupt into waking life in problematic ways.

Splitting my time between two homes in separate and very different settings has actually helped me heal what was once a split between my soul’s twins. For many years my ego favored Apollo’s high ideals, intellectual pursuits and cultured sensibilities, but no more.   Now Artemis leads me through the wild, dark unconscious and Apollo helps me write about what she shows me. Because I love them both as much as I love my twin grandsons, there’s no sibling rivalry, no need for them to vie for my ego’s attention. Life is so much richer and more peaceful this way.

Connor and Jake, this one’s for you. Thank you for enriching my life.

Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc. Ebook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and Diesel Ebooks 

 

The Suspicious Girl April 1, 2014

Nurturing New Growth

Nurturing New Growth

I don’t usually talk or write much about sex. Yet I feel compelled to share this disturbing dream.

Dream #4518: The Suspicious Little Girl: I’m staying at a house with other people.  A noise wakes me up at night. Someone is opening the door.  An eleven-year-old girl who feels familiar is sleeping beside me. Fearing a man is sneaking in to kidnap her, I wrap my arms protectively around her. The shadowy figure of a woman stands by the bed looking shocked. She thinks I might be a child molester! I’m appalled. The next day we’re in a roomful of people when the girl asks me suspiciously, “What was last night all about?” I’m confused. I say defensively, “Darling, someone came into our room in the middle of the night! I was trying to protect you!” Nobody says anything. I sense their suspicion.”

The girl is near the age I was when my father died. As I work with the dream’s images three experiences from that time rise to my awareness.  The first is a dream in which the Lone Ranger shot me. I’ve since learned that for girls who lack the protection of a strong, vigilant mother, such a dream can express a budding awareness of her vulnerability to male predators.

The next summer a girl at church camp told me about rape. After that I saw predators everywhere. One day at a church outing in a state park, a friend and I were walking through the forest when an older boy we knew called out to us from the bottom of a wooded ravine, “Come here.  I want to show you something.” Terrified that he wanted to expose himself or worse, I raced back to the safety of the group, leaving Sylvia far behind.

The third happened one afternoon when I was home alone. The phone rang and a man asked for my mother.  When I told him she wasn’t home, he said, “You’ll do!” Then he described what he would do to me when he came over. I raced to my neighbor’s house where I stayed until my mother came home from work. I never felt safe in that house again.

I see the suspicious girl in my dream as the sensitive and innocent part of me that was traumatized by these events.  My dream ego’s assumption that the intruder was a man illustrates the power experiences like this have to create lasting bias in young minds.  And my instinct to protect the girl is equally strong in my waking life. The woman who was the actual intruder feels like a largely unconscious (night) aspect of my maternal instinct which suspects predatory agendas in adults who are overly intimate with other people’s children.  The group of adults (collective) who were suspicious of me the next day suggest the shared suspicion of female sexuality pervading Western culture…the Salem witch hunts come to mind. And my dream ego’s disbelief and defensiveness about their suspicion suggests some unconscious guilt about my female sexuality.

I recently read a comment by a woman who sees nothing good about men and truly believes the world should have an entire country closed to them so women can live without fear. I was shocked by her vehement one-sidedness, but this dream illustrates how dysfunctional male sexuality can wound a girl to the point that she acquires disdain for all males.  My first inkling of this possibility occurred at twelve. I was wandering through a drugstore when I saw a boy staring at me, peeking around the ends of the aisles, “stalking” me in an innocent boyish way. An innocent part of me was flattered, but a wounded part was more powerful. When he finally walked past me with a flirty, “Hello Cutie,”  I said, “Hello Ugly.”

Ow. Ow. Ow. How could I have been so mean?  Yet I felt totally justified.  For a moment that poor boy represented everything about maleness that felt overwhelmingly threatening. When I told my mother about it, I expected her to be proud of my pluck, but to my surprise she seemed shocked by my cruelty.  The fact that I assumed she’d approve tells me I had unconsciously absorbed part of this attitude from her.  Having never dealt with her own male-inflicted wounds, she passed them on to me.

Working on the above dream was disturbing, but then I re-read the following forgotten one from the previous night:

Dream #4517:  The Besotted Young Man.  A lovely young man of whom I’m very fond, (no one from my waking life), has been following me around. He sneaks up behind me in the kitchen of a big house where we’re staying. When I turn around to see who’s there, he surprises me with an awkward kiss. I enjoy the moment, then step back to look at him. His handsome face is red and intense with emotion. “Do you think it’s time we had sex?” he asks with hopeful innocence.  Not wanting to hurt my husband or him, I smile and gently caress his arm. “No, dear boy. I don’t.” He takes this well, as if it is what he expected.

This dream is a contemporary remake of my youthful waking experience in the drugstore. People go to drugstores for remedies to mental and physical wounds.  My cruelty to the young “stalker” was a symptom of a psychic wound inflicted by toxic masculinity and I needed a remedy.  A kitchen is a room where people gather to nourish body and soul.  My dream says I feel no need to be cruel to this young “stalker.” In fact, my greatest concern is not to hurt him.

As dream #4518 shows the parts of me that are still infected by the shadow of masculinity, this dream depicts the healing difference inner work can make.

Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc. Ebook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and Diesel Ebooks 

 

The Heroic Making of a Soul March 28, 2014

Maiden/Princess

Maiden/Princess

Child

Child

Earlier this month on March 10, my darling child, Matrignosis, turned four years old.  As it has been with my human children, so it has been with Matrignosis in many ways: Pouring my passion into her and learning more about myself as she’s grown has been one of the greatest privileges and pleasures of my life.  Indeed, the overwhelming maternal feelings I have for her and what she’s taught me are reflected in the name I gave her:  matri (Lat. Mother), and gnosis (Gk. knowledge).

Yet, as she has developed through my creative outpourings, Matrignosis has been not only Child, but also Maiden, Mother and Crone to me.  All are part of the life cycle of women and the Sacred Feminine in whatever guise we see her: Goddess, Sophia, Anima, Soul, Yin, Mother Nature, Durga, Kali, the drive for species-preservation…..

As Child she represents my youthful innocence—all the instinctual feeling, vulnerability, wonder and openness I once had and to which I am returning, this time with awareness. (See Dreams of the Divine Child.)

As Maiden she is my dreaming Princess who lives in the questions and tolerates the tension between immaturity and maturity, ignorance and knowing, waiting for a kiss to guide her next steps in the dance. (See The Golden Bear.)

As Mother and Queen she has willingly embraced the otherness of masculinity.  In so doing, she has suffered the loss of innocence, established the boundaries of her identity, struggled to assume her sovereignty, and celebrated the birth of fresh, hopeful new life.  (See The Queen: Lioness of the Psyche)

As a Crone who is slowly and lovingly being stripped of youth’s illusions, she is opening to the mystery of Death while blessing the beauty and wisdom of her body,  experiences, and each fleeting moment of her miraculous life.  (See A Dream of Crones  and Crone Love.)

Matrignosis contains all these qualities and more, as do I. She also reflects my Shadow, the parts of me that are ignorant, self-centered, proud, stubborn, judgmental, defensive, unforgiving.  In some posts I’ve shared my flaws. In others I’ve withheld them. And sometimes they’ve snuck through the cracks in my Persona without my awareness, just as my Shadow sometimes erupts in my behavior.  That’s what Shadows do and I’m okay with that. There’s no human being so transparent that light passes through without casting a shadow.

Yet I am not just a physical body with a flawed personality.  I’m also an evolving soul with a sincere passion for self-knowledge, a deep love for Spirit, and a powerful desire to pass along what I have learned.  As such, Matrignosis is as much a testament to my soul’s healthy truths and accomplishments as to my ego’s unhealed wounds.

The combination of both is what makes me human.  My willingness to take my soul seriously enough to face and admit to both is what makes me heroic.  The same is true of you and every soul who suffers the shame of ignorance, who is appalled when your Shadow overrules reason and good intentions, who enters the struggle for understanding because you want learn how to love and help other suffering souls.  You. Are. Heroic!

And so in conclusion to this celebration of Matrignosis’s fourth birthday, I’d like to say that of all the good things she has brought into my life over the past four years, the courage to claim my soul’s heroism and let its light shine without apology or fear of judgment brings the most satisfaction.

Thank you for reading and sharing your truths here.  It means the world to me to have created this in-between space where heroic souls can meet.

Mother/Queen and Father/King

Mother/Queen and Father/King

Crone

Crone

This is for you, Tony.  Did you ever know you are my hero?

Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.  Ebook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and Diesel Ebooks 

Art: Debutante, by Helen Scobel Raffa. 

Art: Wisdom Lady by C. Victor Posing. Used with permission.

 

The Well of Feminine Power March 25, 2014

In European and Chinese thought, the feminine principle is associated with passivity and the masculine with action. In Hinduism, however, the feminine is associated with creativity and action, and the masculine with manifestation.

The primary image of the feminine principle in Hinduism is the goddess Durga. In a myth called the Devi Mahatmya, a buffalo-headed yogi has become a monster whom none of the gods can overthrow. So the gods stand in a circle, send their energies back to where they came from, and a great black cloud appears. Out of it comes Durga, the goddess with eighteen arms. In each hand is a symbol of one of the gods. With the combined power of these symbols, she alone is able to defeat the monster.

In this story, masculine power is a specific form of the life energy that is feminine. As Joseph Campbell says in Pathways to Bliss, the feminine is the source of the energy and the masculine is its specification in any particular direction. She is the energy out of which creation arises, he is every visible manifestation of that energy. She is the whole; he is each individual part. This intuition from many spiritual traditions is probably why the feminine has long been associated with the dark sea of the unconscious, and the masculine with the ego consciousness which emerges from this maternal matrix.

Although the masculine and feminine principles are metaphors for the basic energies of every psyche, most of us associate them with the genders. As a result, Campbell says it’s much easier for a woman to identify with masculinity than for a male who is committed to his particular form to identify with femininity. All she has to do is take on a specification of the power that is already hers, but he has to give up his ego identity and personal field of power which feels like disintegrating into a formless void. This, of course, is exactly what the Buddha did, and that, says Campbell, was a heroic act of the first order.

In a perfect world, both forms of energy would be valued equally and every child would be helped to discover and activate his or her own unique blend of interests, skills and powers without regard to gender. But most of us have not yet attained that heroic level of consciousness. An immature ego with limited consciousness equates power with physical prowess and power over others. Sensing the magnitude of feminine power and fearing anything more powerful than itself, it represses the feminine principle in the psyche; and if it identifies with maleness, it will also tend to dominate and exploit females.

A well is a symbol of the feminine principle, the womb of the Great Mother, the human psyche.  We all contain Durga’s power: the totality of human potential. Our ego is only one form of that potential. We can choose to identify only with the familiar and comfortable qualities that are sanctioned by our families; or, if we want to, we can choose to activate our fullest power by accepting everything about ourselves we associate with the feminine principle, including tender feelings, instincts, caring, nurturing, evil, suffering, the capacity for intimate relationships, an understanding heart, intuition, etc.

In empowering Durga we can attain our destiny. What monsters hold you back from attaining your destiny? What do you have to lose by enlisting Durga’s help to overcome them?

Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, IncEbook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are also at Amazon, and at Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords,and Diesel Ebooks 

 

 

The Soul’s Never-Ending Journey March 18, 2014

vesica_piscisLast weekend I presented a Friday night lecture and Saturday workshop on Healing the Sacred Divide for the CG Jung Society of Sarasota.  The material for both presentations came from 25 years of ongoing inner work.

With my 1989 discovery of Jungian psychology and the healing value of dreamwork, I started paying attention to images and symbols that felt important.  Over the next five years of intense study I recorded and worked on hundreds of dreams and wrote two books.  Both featured meaningful symbols that were helping me make sense of my life.

As I continued to write and teach at the Winter Park Jung Center throughout the 90’s,  I devised and tested what I called The Partnership Profile. This is an assessment tool to help people understand where they lie on a continuum between the opposites of masculine and feminine archetypal energies.  According to Jung, we all contain both, and wholeness is a function of valuing and integrating both into our awareness so we can live with balance. The symbol I chose for The Partnership Profile was two interlocking circles with the unifying mandorla in the middle.  I used it again on my first website,  then on my newly revised website, and most recently on the cover of Healing the Sacred Divide.

Why this symbol and not another?  Why am I so drawn to it?  I finally found the answer last weekend.

I began my Friday evening lecture with the Big dream I had at the age of ten.  In it I was walking along a railroad track toward a point on the distant horizon when Tonto took me to see the Lone Ranger who was standing below the left side of the tracks. As I waited to hear what my hero wanted to tell me, he shot me. When I woke up screaming I vowed I would never forget this devastating dream of betrayal.

Fast forward to Saturday’s workshop. My last topic for the day was “The 9th Gift of an Integrated God-image:  Mandorla Consciousness.”  This is when we begin to travel the psycho-spiritual path which Lao-Tsu, father of Taoism, called the Middle Way of mindful thinking and living.

In our discussion about whether or not this is enlightenment, I shared a huge awakening experience I had at the age of 27 when I was suffering a crisis of faith.  After a leader in our church prayed for me I had a vision of a pillar of vibrating blue light that stood between me and the altar for over a minute.  Not only did this convince me of the reality of the Sacred Mystery, but it made me wonder if I had reached enlightenment!  After all, it was a blue “light!”

I hadn’t of course!  But that’s a subject for another post. I’m telling you this now because when one of the workshop participants asked me what shape the pillar was, I stood up to demonstrate with my hands.  “Well, it was a tall pillar, about this size and shape…..”  “Oh,” said the woman.  “It was a mandorla.”

It took a moment to sink in. The train tracks in my Lone Ranger dream represented my spiritual journey. I would strive for the rest of my life to walk in that middle, mandorla-like space between two opposite but  interconnected rails.  Seventeen years after that dream my first powerful awakening also featured a mandorla.  And I didn’t see either one of them until last Saturday!

What does this tell me about the Soul’s journey?  That becoming fully conscious takes a very, very long time. So long, in fact, that it may continue into eternity like those tracks in my dream.  As it’s taken thousands of years for humanity to evolve to our present level of awareness—which anyone with eyes can see is far from complete—so may each individual soul need eons to evolve into its fullest potential. If what physicists say is true—that energy is never lost—than that includes soul energy.

I find it very reassuring that my journey is far from over, and I look forward to the next leg, whenever and wherever it may take place.

Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, IncEbook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are also at Amazon, and at Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and Diesel Ebooks 

 

The Feminine Symbolism of Vessels February 12, 2014

Our relationships with nature and matter are closely connected to our relationships with our bodies. In certain orthodox religious circles, love for God as remote masculine spirit has gone hand in hand with physical self-loathing. For example, Moses Maimonides, the greatest Jewish medieval philosopher, was merely stating a commonly held belief when he said that “all philosophers are agreed that the inferior world, of earthly corruption and degeneration, is ruled by the natural virtues and influences of the more refined celestial spheres.” Likewise, St. Augustine considered his body to be the major source of his spiritual problems and sufferings.

This attitude is an obstacle to the fullest development of our spirituality. In Care of the Soul, Thomas Moore writes:”Spiritual life does not truly advance by being separated either from the soul or from its intimacy with life. God, as well as man, is fulfilled when God humbles himself to take on human flesh. The theological doctrine of incarnation suggests that God validates human imperfection as having mysterious…value. Our depressions, jealousies, narcissism, and failures are not at odds with the spiritual life. Indeed, they are essential to it….The ultimate marriage of spirit and soul, animus and anima, is the wedding of heaven and earth…”

Vessels are classic symbols of feminine matter. Of the many vessels symbolizing feminine containment, one that is particularly dear to Christians is the chalice or grail, the highest level of spiritual development and heavenly and earthly happiness. The female body is a vessel which receives sperm and produces eggs. A womb is a vessel within a vessel, the cradle of life that receives, holds, nurtures, and protects a growing embryo. A breast is a vessel which creates and dispenses milk. A skull is a vessel containing the brain, itself a vessel teeming with creative potential. In Christianity, Mary is a vessel for new spiritual life.

Another vessel-like symbol is the tower. A tower’s elevated position links it to heaven; its impenetrability to virginity; its vertical aspect to the human figure; its roundness to the womb; its containment to creative new life. Hence, towers that are closed and windowless were once emblematic of the Virgin Mary. In early Christian times a tower was often used to suggest the sacred walled city, another feminine symbol. The Herder Symbol Dictionary notes that a tower with a light is a lighthouse, which has long been a symbol “of the eternal goal toward which the ship of life [is] steered across the waves of this existence.” Its light suggests Sophia, the divine spark of life within us.

For Jung, too, the tower was a feminine symbol with sacred meaning. In his autobiography, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, he describes the stone tower he built at Bollingen, a small town on the upper shores of Lake Zurich, and writes that it “represented for me the maternal hearth.” He wrote, “From the beginning I felt the Tower as in some way a place of maturation — a maternal womb or a maternal figure in which I could become what I was, what I am and will be. It gave me a feeling as if I were being reborn in stone.”

Vessels accept, contain, protect and preserve the birth/death/rebirth cycle of life at both the physical and metaphysical levels. Our planet Earth is a living vessel whose life cycles mirror the soul-making processes of psychological and spiritual transformation. The matter (L. mater) of which our bodies are composed is our mother, teacher, partner and guide on the spiritual journey. For that, it deserves our everlasting gratitude. How do you honor and thank your mother/body for nurturing the life of your soul?

Photo Credit:  “Chalice” by Barbara Sorensen

Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.

Ebook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords,and Diesel Ebooks 

 

Connecting with the Holy, Step Two: Giving Our Warrior A New Job October 22, 2013

What Does Your Life Map Look Like?

What Does Your Life Map Look Like?

With inner work [your ego accords] every element of life, including the dark elements…a place of dignity and worth.”

–Robert A. Johnson

If spirit persons throughout history are right when they say the nature of Divine Being is light and love, why can’t we see and feel it?  Because our shadow blocks the light!  Unfortunately, we can’t see our shadow either.  In fact, we find the very idea of it difficult to comprehend. So how do we handle something we can’t see and don’t believe in?

Luckily, we each have an inner ally who can help. The Warrior archetype is a powerful pattern of psychological energy with the courage, commitment and self-discipline to show up to work every day. It wants to be active but it only has so much energy so we need to prioritize. We can begin by asking ourselves these questions:

1: What job(s) does my Warrior have now?  In other words, what occupies the majority of my time, thought, activity and will power? My job? Family? Home? Appearance? Social standing? Relationships? Hobbies? Addictions? Making money? Acquiring material objects? Pleasing people?

2:  Does using my Warrior’s energy these ways bring joy, meaning and fulfillment or do I yearn for something more?

We have two basic life tasks. During the first half our job is to acquire power and success in the material world.  Our Warrior’s energy is meant to be directed into socialization, education, perfecting our skills, and establishing a comfortable home, satisfying job and loving relationships. Using some of our energy to disown what we consider negative while trying to act positive and loving is often helpful during this time, but it’s not enough to connect us with the mystery of Divine Love.

If your answer to #2 is that you’re still unfulfilled and yearning, you’re probably near the second half of life. Dissatisfaction at this time comes from having repressed some of our valid, and often valuable, potential. To complete ourselves we need to give our Warrior the new job of freeing our unlived life.First, we need to become intentional about acknowledging our true feelings, especially those which feel dangerous, for they are among the more accessible symptoms of our shadow. Then we need to begin a committed program of regular inner work that will help us see and restrain it. Inner work is a big job, in fact it’s THE big job, and it continues throughout our lives. Most of us find it painful at first, but it gets easier. Spirit persons have always demonstrated that growth pains are preferable to the child’s fear of switching on the light in the closet of nighttime monsters, for that is a choice to remain in spiritual darkness.

Integrating Our Light and Dark Sides.

Integrating Our Light and Dark Sides.

Inner work requires our Warrior’s commitment to practice, practice, practice!  It can be anything that brings self-knowledge, empowers us to make healthy choices, and provides purpose, meaning and spiritual direction. Examples include journaling, dream work, active imagination, meditation, and psychotherapy.  For more information, I highly recommend Robert A. Johnson’s Inner Work. Growing mindful of how and when our shadow shows up is like creating a special road map that highlights unnecessary detours and obstacles, and directs us to safer routes. No one else can make our roadmap and we can’t complete it for ourselves without self-knowledge.

The theme of solar mythology is a great battle between light and darkness, good and evil.”

–Anne Baring

Befriending the dark side seems counterintuitive to most people today. After 4,000 years of conditioning by the Sky god’s mythology, our Warrior is far more comfortable trying to obliterate it!  But when the sun of our life begins to set and the moon begins to rise, lunar mythology, with its theme of integrating dark and light, is meant to take over. Dialogues with our soul open our hearts. With practice they bring self-acceptance, humility, compassion, forgiveness and love. These qualities connect us to our Source—the Divine Ground in which we and the universe are immersed—and allow it to manifest its love for us. When we accept ourselves and learn to love, our shadow’s power ebbs away and holiness flows in.

You can find Healing the Sacred Divide at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.

Photo:  Antique Map of Hungary, Braun & Hogenberg

Photo:  Fijian Warrior, Graham Crumb

 

Loving Yourself Through the Seasons of Your Life April 5, 2013

balloonrideApril 3, 2013. Dream #4422. Fear of Heights.
I’m in a vehicle traveling up a steep mountain on a narrow road. The mountain is on my right, a sheer drop-off is to my left.  I don’t want to look down or feel anxious so I close my eyes. When I open them the right side of my vision is filled with mountain; the left, with sky.

As we round a curve I see a light brown cigar box-shaped object with a half-open lid that seems to float in the sky. I think it must be anchored to the top of the mountain like a billboard supported by slender poles. I wonder what it is. A viewing facility? An art object? Maybe I’ll find out when we arrive at our destination.

The vehicle stops. To our left a wooden deck is connected to the mountain by a narrow walkway. People are out there preparing a balloon for flight. Someone opens the vehicle door and a small, gray curly-haired dog hops out and trots fearlessly down the walkway. A fluffy white cat is perched regally on the front seat. I understand we’re to take a balloon ride and look forward to it. But I’m worried about the narrow walkway and the cat. I wish it wasn’t with us. It’s my responsibility to hold it and I tell the others, “I’m afraid the cat will leap out of my arms!” It’s not really the height I’m afraid of; it’s the precariousness of this situation, the cat’s vulnerability, and my ability to restrain it. I don’t want this concern to spoil the pleasure of our ride.

I’m writing this three days before the Wilbur Award banquet. The heights could be a metaphor for receiving this award, and Dream Mother could be showing me some anxiety I have about this event. So why the anxiety? I couldn’t figure it out so I called my best friend Ann, a Jungian therapist. When she asked what I’ve been worrying about, I was embarrassed to tell her I’ve been stressing over how I’ll look at the awards ceremony! Am I too fat for my dress?  I hate my hair! Should I wear it up or down? Do I have the right shoes? Makeup? Jewelry?

The odd object in the sky is an important clue to the meaning of this dream. It looked exactly like one of those Hav-a-Tampa cigar boxes I grew up with in the Cigar City. As a teenager I put my jewelry in one. Why was it in the sky? Well, when I lived in Tampa an iconic image on its skyline was a bottle-shaped water tower advertising whisky. It was supported by slender poles. To me, these macho images of a mid-century southern town suggest an issue that originated there in my formative years, an era when Miss America pageants ruled, southern girls dominated them, and masculine values ran the whole show!

cigarboxFor half my life I’ve struggled to break free of gender stereotypes; travel comfortably in my own space between mountain and air, matter and spirit; and write about my journey to heal my sacred divides. And now that I’m about to receive a wonderful acknowledgement of my life’s work, I’m possessed by a teen-aged girl whose trepidations about the prom are conjuring up a scenario of potential disaster! Seriously?

My instinctual masculine side (dog) is full of confidence and ready to go. My instinctual feminine side (cat) is, in typical cat fashion, serenely above it all. But my ego has been beset by a stubborn “woman-as-beautiful-object” stereotype that refuses to die a peaceful death.  There’s nothing wrong with wanting to look attractive, but there is something wrong when it impairs your ability to love yourself gracefully through the seasons of your life regardless of gender, looks or age!  With Ann’s help, this issue already feels less problematic. My talk with her left me laughing at myself, and I’m pretty sure I’ll be smiling all the way to Indianapolis this Saturday and soaring home on Sunday.

See the water tower in the upper left corner?

See the water tower in the upper left corner?

You can find Healing the Sacred Divide at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.

 

 
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